Before you leave for vacation

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In collaboration with: Dr. Ted Jablonski, Family Physician
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Tickets? Check. Passport? Check. Camera. Check. In some cases, however, you should also check your health before leaving for vacation. Here's what you need to know and do.

"If you're healthy and going away to a familiar destination, then there may not be a need to book an appointment before your trip," says Dr. Ted Jablonski, a family physician in private practice in Calgary. "But in some cases, you must take charge of your own health and ask your healthcare provider or a travel clinic for advice."

Knowing when to seek advice depends on your health and where you're going. Take this advice from Dr. Jablonski and reduce your risk of unhappy vacation memories.

If you're in good health

If you're healthy, your travel destination will help you decide:

  • A safe destination: "If you're going somewhere familiar or popular with tourists, then take normal precautions and have fun," he says. You may want to take a basic first aid kit and some over-the-counter medication (for sunburn or headaches for example) since these items may be expensive if you're going to a resort or tourist destination.
  • An exotic locale: Exotic locations may offer unique sites, people and experiences, but some also offer unique health challenges. "While it's a good idea to make sure you're up-to-date on your vaccinations, your healthcare provider can also give you information about destination-specific vaccinations," advises Dr. Jablonski.

That may include vaccinations against Hepatitis A and B before you travel to some places. And in some regions or countries, you may be more susceptible to malaria and require prophylactic medications. Also consider that certain countries will require documentation that you have been vaccinated for certain diseases (such as yellow fever) before allowing you to enter.

Ask your healthcare provider for more information or visit the Public Health Agency of Canada website for more information about vaccines for travel.

Alternative international websites include the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) site at and the World Health Organization (WHO).

For specialized advice and some specific vaccines, you may have to visit a travel clinic. Search "travel" in Find Support to find a clinic in your area.

If you have a health condition

Any health condition that requires treatment means you need to take precautions, even if you're travelling to a major city in another developed country.

  • Get the okay first. "Rule one is know your limits!" stresses Dr. Jablonski. "Be realistic about how much you can and can't do. If you have ongoing health problems get medical clearance from your healthcare provider before booking any travel arrangements."
  • Plan your meds. Once you've got the go-ahead, make sure you bring enough prescription medication with you. Dr. Jablonski advises to keep your medication in the prescription bottles and bring extra just in case you're delayed getting home. This is important since not all medication is available in other countries.
  • Get a note. "If you're travelling with certain medication (like narcotic analgesics) or require special medical equipment (such as insulin syringes and needles), then check with your airline or tour operator," he says. "You may require a note from your doctor explaining that you need to travel with these items." While this may not be necessary, it doesn't hurt to be prepared.

Take a few precautions before you leave for vacation and you'll come back with nothing more than happy memories—and maybe a few souvenirs you wish you didn't buy in the first place.

This article may contain information related to nutrition, exercise and fitness and/or general information provided by select health care professionals. This information is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment (or advice) provided by a qualified professional. Speak to your healthcare professional before making any changes to your lifestyle or beginning or discontinuing any course of treatment.



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